I am back in Moscow after leaving it four times already: for Bryansk, for Rostov Velikiy, for Kolomna and for Nizhniy Novgorod.
It is hard to imagine that a country stretching for eleven time zones east to west, and from the subtropics in the south to the Arctic Circle in the north, only has one hub city, but such is the case. I have already traveled in all directions from six of its eight railroad city terminals.
My time in Bryansk was blessed with a very intensive teaching schedule, and a wide range of settings: from a church to halfway house; and from a city library to a milk farm. Pastor Volodya wanted to squeeze from me every bit of my energy and teaching capacity. Little did he know that I am only getting more excited and energized from meeting my audiences and sharing my faith with them. What nearly killed me at the end of the day was a Russian sauna with merciless heat and a whipping with a birch broom.
My other fear – of being only 35 miles away from the war zone – was only tested once when the whole house was shaken by the terrible boom which made me run down the stairs… only to find out later that it was Pastor Yuri coming home and slamming shut his steel plate garage door. “The whole town knows when my husband comes home,” commented his wife.
Back in Moscow for a just a couple of hours – to change trains – then off I went to teach in Rostov Velikiy. My students this time were from the Orthodox Church Gimnazia (high school) with excellent teachers and very advanced Bible curriculum. They asked me questions about certain manuscripts and archeological evidence which I rarely hear even in my graduate school classrooms.
My only advantage with them was that I also know the historic context and centuries-long discussion dynamics around those artifacts which made our conversation even more exciting and educational for all.
Switching trains again and I am in Odintsovo, just west of Moscow, teaching in the church located only half a mile from the place where I was born.
My dad was a road construction engineer who built the highway I was riding to back to Moscow on the next morning.
One more train trip and I found myself teaching to a group of Architecture and Psychology majors at Nizhniy Novgorod State University, who didn’t want to let me go until I promised them that I would return and teach there again in May.
My next trip seems to already be taking shape, even before I finished this one!
Last night I took advantage of not traveling anywhere from Moscow, and went to see a play in one of my favorite theaters here – Fomenko’s Theatrical Laboratory. They were showing the Leskov’s famous Soboryane, which tells the story of an Orthodox priest in a provincial Russian town in the middle of the nineteenth century.
I love the novel, but I think they wanted the story to look more “modern” and didn’t trust the audience to understand the historic context of those times. In short, I only liked those parts where they stuck to the writer’s text and didn’t care for the present-day realities and language they brought into the play.